Birth Control & Teens
There are various birth control methods available for teenagers. Teens should talk to their health care provider about the risks and benefits of each type to determine which is the best choice for them:
- Depo-Provera is injected into a woman's arm muscle or buttocks every 3 months. This type of birth control requires a visit to a doctor or other health care professional. This method prevents pregnancy by preventing ovulation, altering the cervical mucus to make it more difficult for the sperm to reach the egg, and preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. Depo-Provera also reduces menstrual cramps, iron-deficiency anemia, and the risk for endometrial cancer. Side effects include irregular periods, weight gain, and tender breasts.
- Norplant is an implant that is inserted under the skin. This type of birth control is effective for up to 5 years. It is made up of 6 matchstick-sized rubber rods and must be inserted and removed by a professional health care provider. There is an increased risk for pregnancy in heavier women, but Norplant failure is generally rare. Side effects include changes in the menstrual cycle, weight gain, and tender breasts.
- There are also a variety of low-dose birth control pills that are fairly safe for use in teens. Birth control pills also reduce menstrual cramps and blood flow, regulate the menstrual cycle, and, in some cases, reduce acne.
- Condoms and contraceptive jelly reduce the risk for teen pregnancy and for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
- Emergency contraceptive pills, also known as "morning-after pills," are effective if taken within 72 hours after having unprotected sex. Most medical insurance companies cover them. They must be prescribed by a doctor or other health care professional if the woman is under 18.